I asked the question in my previous post, and wrote this big long answer which, I decided, worked much better as a completely separate post. So here it is.
There have been a number of different guesses. The best one I’ve read thus far, concerning the evangelical movement in particular, is Michael Spencer’s article “The Coming Evangelical Collapse“, based on a series of blog posts he did, which start here. Most evangelicals these days—and this is definitely true of the conference I attended today—argue that the problem is in the medium through which we communicate isn’t good enough: that is, that the problem is style, not content. The prescription for that disease is better music, better speaking, better art, etc. Christians shouldn’t be constantly catching up with the culture, but on the cutting edge of it instead.
And I’d agree with that, at least in part. But my sense is that there is something much more fundamentally wrong here than simply the way we are presenting what we believe. My suggestion is that the content of what we believe is no longer adequate. It isn’t only how we communicate that must change, but what we are communicating: not only form, but content as well. Western Christianity, by and large, has failed to provide meaningful answers to the questions modern people are asking.
It’s not that we’re not launching an edgy-enough marketing campaign. It’s that we’re selling a product that no one wants or needs. The world wants answers to the deep questions of human life, and we offer them petty moralisms and mediocre parenting advice. The world wants hope and redemption and light in the darkness, and we offer them a bunker to hide in.
Let me put it this way: if you take a hard look at what most American Christians actually believe, that is, the convictions that order their lives, and then look at the world around, is it any wonder that no one’s really interested?
I’m sure that that could use some clarification, but I’ve been blogging for a good hour-and-a-half now (those charts took forever) and that will just have to wait.